OCALA, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday announced the availability of a new antibody treatment for high-risk groups before exposure or infection of COVID-19.
The governor said during a news conference in Ocala that the state has 3,100 doses of the AstraZeneca antibody drug Evusheld, which was authorized by the Food and Drug administration earlier this month. The drug will be available for people 12 years and older with serious health problems or allergies. Regulators said the required two antibody injections may be effective at preventing COVID-19 infections for six months.
DeSantis said the initial allocation will be administered at hospitals and clinics that were already administering monoclonal antibody treatments, including Ocala Regional Medical Center, where the governor made the announcement.
“This is for people who have not been exposed to COVID and who have not been infected by COVID. So it’s something that you’re trying to provide some antibody protection for about a six-month period of time,” he said. “So the people that are specifically authorized to do Evusheld are individuals who are immunocompromised and may not have adequate immune response to vaccination.”
Federal health officials said people who could benefit from the antibody drug include cancer patients, organ transplant recipients and people taking immune-suppressing drugs for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. Health experts estimate about 2% to 3% of the U.S. population falls into that group.
“That’s exciting news for this very medically vulnerable population,” said Dr. Kami Kim, an infectious disease specialist at the University of South Florida. " ... This is a very, very important tool to keep those people healthy since we know they don’t respond well to the vaccine.”
Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo added that AstraZeneca is studying whether the treatment is effective against the new COVID-19 variant omicron.
“Unlike some of the other monoclonal antibodies, it does seem to still have activity, but not as good as the initial variants that it was tested against,” Kim said.
DeSantis addressed the spread of omicron and an increase in COVID-19 cases seen across the state and nationwide.
“We anticipate similar to what we saw in Florida last winter, lower than all those other areas, but higher in January than higher in November. Fortunately, you know we have the ability to combat it with a variety of these tools,” he said.
To find out what location near you is offering the new antibody treatment, click here.